We’ve seen the power of a community through social media in the last decade and this will continue to grow to the unforeseeable future. In early 2000, LEGO the toy making mega company found itself in the brink of bankruptcy due to the rising competition from video games and the internet. Fortunately the company made an amazing turn around that put them ahead in the game and continues to improve their strategy.
You might wonder what it is that transformed the company from a failure to a total power house in the toy market?
Community. They came up with a strategy to build their products around the ideas of their customers by launching the LEGO Ideas Platform. Fans submit new product ideas and other fans will vote on that proposal. The winning ideas will then be vetted by LEGO staff and then the chosen designs will be sent for production. The fan with the winning idea will be rewarded with a percentage royalty.
Through LEGO Ideas, the 87-year-old company successfully transitioned from simply building for customers to building with an engaged community.
It’s so apparent now the diminishing power companies have in controlling customer interactions. Today customers can provide reviews about a company on a wide range of other websites, create Facebook groups for certain products/services and share videos of their reactions about a product or service without even interacting directly with that business. And believe me all these things will affect your business whether negatively or positively.
You can create a community for your business that comes together over what they care about. You have the tools and the platforms already built for you in the last decade, which you can use to collaborate with your customers. Here are some ways you can implement this.
1. Give power to people and trust them
This might scare some business owners and conclude that there’s too much risk involved.
A perfect example for this is TED’s decision to launch TEDx . TED is an international invitation only conference founded in 1984 meant for the elite with a price tag of USD10,000 currently.
TEDx empowered volunteers to organize TED style conferences in their own countries. This had an amazing result with thousands of people attending TEDx events in their own cities, spreading ideas at a remarkable scale and securing TED’s place as an idea distribution company under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading”
As much as a two way relationship with customers might sound scary to some business, what they forget to remember is by creating a community around your business, you’re also building co-owners who will guide you through the mistakes you’re bound to make. Co-owners act differently than standard customers.
2. Create a platform where your customers or clients can connect and help each other
Building a community is not for the sole purpose of benefiting the business but to connect your customers with like minded people searching for the solution to their problem.
Think of it this way. If you’re a digital marketing academy and your best course so far the facebook ads course, so your target clients are other businesses that provide digital marketing services. You build a facebook group for your students to share tips and tricks, new tools and regulations by Facebook. This will help them connect and share opportunities with each other. You’ll have unlimited access to their ideas, problems that you could solve and a pool of loyal community members that will help you when you miss the mark on a product or service.
3. Start by Identifying Your Community
Building a community isn’t about what an organization can achieve; rather, it’s a manifestation of what an organization and a group of passionate people can do together.
Let’s go back to our first example LEGO , they figured their “who”, the energetic teens who had ideas of the new LEGO they had in mind. When the Idea Platform was launched, it supercharged what their customers already wanted to do which aligned with the company’s goal.
Before jumping to tactics of building a community, stop to think about the purpose of that community otherwise you risk building a space where no one shows up. Community-building is an ongoing practice of trusting and collaborating with a specific group of passionate people who bring energy to your brand. Maybe they already even engage or contribute in ways that you haven’t yet recognized. Supporting those people may start as a responsibility under one department but at its best becomes a cross-functional effort to supercharge a core group of stakeholders.
4. Create resources for your members to educate them about relevant issues
You want to create a space that provides everything relating to the purpose of the community. We like how GymShark positioned itself as their members’ “go to” hub for information through their blogs about fitness, health, nutrition, gym wear etc. This solidifies customers desire to buy and share from the company as a way of connecting with the community.
Educational resources about your products only help your current customer but also prospects to solve their problem and build trust in the process.
You can keep your community engaged with you frequently with blogs, articles, videos, podcasts etc whenever you sense the conversation is slowing down.
For many organizations, cultivating a community will mean cultivating a new capacity. This is a democratic, not autocratic, route to building customer relationships. It requires trusting instead of controlling, and commitment instead of flightiness.
As we move into the coming decade, your customers will be acting on your behalf anyway, driving interactions themselves. You can either stand on the sidelines, or you can take an active role by empowering them.